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Archive for November, 2013

Posted by DownWithTyranny on November 29th, 2013

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Primitive man developed some relatively sophisticated social mechanisms to enforce male dominance over primitive women. Patriarchal religion was the biggie, of course, but even before than, ritualized violence worked wonders in establishing who the boss was and who was subservient. Stoning, later embraced by patriarchal religions– at least ’til Jesus came along with a forward-thinking perspective.

In 1969 I went to Afghanistan for the first time. I recall writing back to my friends and family in America that it felt more like a journey in time than a journey in space. Especially outside of Kabul, there wasn’t much that reminded me of the 20th Century. I spent a winter in a tiny hamlet in the Hindu Kush where no one recognized a country called Afghanistan, where no one had ever heard of the U.S., where no one knew how to read of write or speak the language (Farsi) people spoke in Kabul, and where no one had ever experienced electricity or had an idea of manned flight– let alone that the U.S. was landing a man on the moon that year.

While I was there, my friend, whose family compound I was living in, got married. I went to the wedding, of course– it was in the compound– but I never met or even saw his wife. No women were allowed at the wedding and no males were allowed to see the wife until after she had a baby– which was long after I was back in Kabul. In another Afghan town I stayed in, Ghazni, between Kandahar and Kabul down south, college pals of mine were Peace Corp volunteers. The wife told me that the Afghan women’s vocabulary was so limited that they couldn’t even conceive of the kinds or social progress mankind had made in the last 10 or so centuries. Their vocabulary was sufficient for serving the needs of men; that’s it.

I was in Afghanistan twice and spent nearly a year there all told. I travelled around the country in my VW van at first and then, when I realized there were no roads in our sense of what a road it in most of the country, on horseback. Thank God I never saw a stoning. And thank God almost everyone I met was kind, generous, friendly and courteous. The Afs had awesome senses of humor and, at least in the dealings I had with them, a very live-and-let-live approach.

Several decades later the U.S. had occupied their devastated country. Progressives wanted that to end– or at least most progressives did. I recall getting into a lively debate with some progressive congresswomen and progressive women candidates who felt strongly that the U.S. should “save” Afghanistan’s women from repression. I was dumbfounded. These were really smart women I was talking with. The U.S. military– and mercenaries– occupying Afghanistan were also going to change the country’s codes of behavior which had been set in stone long before the first Europeans set foot in North America and… started changing the mores here?


Last week the American puppet government announced that they were reintroducing stoning as a mechanism to keep women in their place. The beautifully named Ministry of Justice, was, in fact, drawing up a draft law that specified that stoning for adultery would be done in public, the way it was in the Taliban days. There was an uproar in Washington and the puppet government rolled its collective eyes and said, basically, “just kidding.” Karzai said it was all a big misunderstanding and that stoning would not be brought back as part of the legal system. Can we bring our troops home now?

The president, Hamid Karzai, said in an interview that the grim penalty, which became a symbol of Taliban brutality when the group were in power, would not be coming back.

“It is not correct. The minister of justice has rejected it,” he told Radio Free Europe, days after the UK minister Justine Greening urged him to prevent the penalty becoming law.

Afghanistan’s penal code dates back over three decades. The government is drawing up a new one to unify fragmented rules and cover crimes missed out when the last version was written, such as money laundering, and offences that did not even exist at the time, such as internet crimes.

The justice minister presiding over the reform is an outspoken conservative who last year denounced the country’s handful of shelters for battered women as brothels.

As part of the process, a committee tasked with looking at sharia law came up with draft legislation that would have condemned married adulterers to the slow and gruesome death; unmarried people who had sex would be flogged.

But after several days of silence in the face of growing international outcry, the justice ministry said in a statement that although stoning had been proposed it would not appear in the new legislation because there was “no need to regulate the issue.”

The country’s penal code already encompasses sharia law, but some controversial aspects of traditional punishments such as stoning have never been put on the books in Afghanistan.

“The legality of the crime and punishment is fully addressed and there is no need to regulate the issue in the new code. So, the ministry of justice does not intend to regulate it in the new draft code,” the statement said.

Rights groups who first highlighted the draft law warned that although the government’s quashing of the proposal was good news, its emergence in the first place was a sign of how fragile gains in human rights over the last decade had been, particularly for women.

Although stoning is listed as a punishment for adulterers of both sexes, in countries where it has been used in recent years women have often appeared on the execution ground alone.

As foreign troops head home before a 2014 deadline for the end of combat action in Afghanistan, and political attention fades with it, many activists fear that years of painstaking progress are at risk of being swept away.

Don’t watch this:

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on November 25th, 2013

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Apparently, President Obama didn’t really mean “complete,” at least not in the sense anyone ever uses that word, when he said the transition out of Afghanistan would be complete by the end of 2014. As Maddow reported– in the video below– the plan is to have “an enduring presence in Afghanistan even after the war is technically over.” And that means U.S. troops, not to mention billions of taxpayer dollars sinking into that blackbox hellhole. With the help of Richard Engel, Maddow started getting the word out that there are plans to formalize an agreement to prolong some sort of U.S. occupation for years and years and years into the future. Engel: “What is clear when you see a draft of this document is that U.S. officials and Afghan officials, behind closed doors, have been very hard at work hammering out a detailed agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay here– that in fact would require an enduring U.S. presence for decades– or at least a decade or more.”

Can can watch Engel discussing his scoop with Maddow below or read about it here. One takeaway is that “Afghan negotiators want a long-term U.S. presence, with U.S. forces and contractors providing intelligence, training and funding, but also to keep American forces as confined as possible. It shows Afghans want to keep their U.S. partners, but on their terms. It also suggests the United States is not confident that without a long-term commitment, the Afghan government can bring stability or effectively fight terrorism.”

The 25-page “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors.

The bilateral security agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by around 2,500 village elders, academics and officials in a traditional Loya Jirga. While the Loya Jirga is strictly consultative, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he won’t sign it without the Jirga’s approval.

…Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan’s large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and “shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.” It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.

There is however what U.S. officials believe is a contradiction in the July draft, which would effectively ask American troops to provide training and confront al-Qaeda from the confines of bases. While it says operations against al-Qaeda may be necessary, it also says US troops will not be allowed to make arrests or enter Afghan homes.

“No detention or arrest shall be carried out by the United States forces. The United States forces shall not search any homes or other real estate properties,” it says.

“[The contradiction] was a matter of serious consternation at the highest levels” of the Obama administration over the weekend, according to one senior defense official. “It is the one remaining issue that could ultimately kill the deal.” However, US officials believe that in a more recent draft, which was circulated among key Pentagon officials and US lawmakers on Monday, the US has won its position on this point.

Yesterday, The Economist says the deal in harder than it should be because of haggling, apparently unaware that haggling, even more than fighting, is the Afghan national pass-time. The Afs want to extract as much money as they can from the U.S. taxpayer– as does the American Military-Industrial Complex.

Some in Congress aren’t just sitting around scratching their asses. On the Senate side, “a bipartisan group of senators– led by Jeff Merkley of Oregon– is trying to pump the brakes. They have a simple principle: before President Obama agrees to another decade of war, he should consult Congress and the American people.” Fighting alongside Merkely on this: Rand Paul, Joe Manchin, Mike Lee and Ron Wyden and the 5 of them have co-sponsored an amendment to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act that expresses a sense of the Senate that Obama should seek congressional approval no later than June 1, 2014, for any extended presence in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and CPC Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) released the following statement in response to Engel’s revelations:

“The possibility of a military presence into 2024 is unacceptable. There is no military solution in Afghanistan. After 13 years and more than $778 billion invested in an unstable country and the corrupt Karzai government, it’s time to bring our troops and tax dollars home. The American people have had enough of the endless, open-ended war. It is time to focus on bringing our brave men and women in uniform home and transition to full Afghan control,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“Many of us, myself included, applauded President Obama for making the right decision to bring our troops home from Iraq after a very expensive decade of war,” Rep. Grijalva said. “Our troops have been in Afghanistan even longer, and the right decision there is even clearer. We can’t keep spending money and risking American lives into the indefinite future, especially not with such a clear need to invest here at home. History will not look kindly on us if we choose to keep funding a war without end through a major domestic economic crisis. We should bring everyone home and start the rebuilding process here in the United States,” said Congressman Grijalva.

“Congress should decide any future role for the United States in Afghanistan,” Rep. Ellison said. “The American people expect U.S. forces to be out of the country by the end of 2014 because that’s been our policy. We should not participate in a costly war in Afghanistan indefinitely, especially when budget cuts are kicking kids out of Head Start and slashing food assistance for working families and veterans. The House has already passed an amendment requiring Congressional approval for a policy change on Afghanistan and I urge the Senate to pass a similar amendment introduced by Senator Merkley.”

The CPC has long opposed unlimited involvement in Afghanistan. Our men and women in uniform deserve to come home, and the Afghan people deserve a new approach to our relationship that emphasizes humanitarian aid and capacity-building rather than focusing, as we have done in the past, almost exclusively on military objectives.

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Posted by Just Foreign Policy on November 3rd, 2013

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

In mid-November, the Christian Science Monitor reports, a loya jirga in Afghanistan – a national meeting of tribal leaders and other notable Afghans – will vote on whether to meet the Obama administration’s terms for keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond the end of 2014.

If you care about democracy in Afghanistan, you should be happy for the Afghans. Whether or not – and if so, under what conditions – they want to have thousands of U.S. troops in their country after 2014 is obviously a very big deal for them. Why shouldn’t they have full deliberation and debate?

But if you also care about democracy in the United States, you should be a bit troubled. Because Congress has never approved keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.

The closest Congress has come to considering this question is in language passed by the House in June, 2013. Offered by Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, this language – which passed the House 305-121, with a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voting yes- said [my emphasis]:

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